Tue Oct 14th, 2008 at 07:40:29 PM EST
It was a November day in 2006 when Horst Müller's telephone rang. The other side of the line had Michael Höhenberger, the bureau chief of Bavarian Minister-President Dr. Edmund Stoiber. Mr. Höhenberger had some questions about Gabriele Pauli. He wanted to know what reasons she had for her 'inexplicable' political behaviour. He further asked Müller about issues Pauli was rumoured to have with alcohol, and about her alternating contacts with men.
Müller was responsible for economics in the city government of Fürth, and Gabrielle Pauli was the administrator of the neighbouring rural district. As a friend, Müller told Pauli about this telephone call when the two met at a Christmas party.
Gabriele Pauli may not have held too high an office, but she was a prominent member of the Christian Social Union. Partially because of looks, partially because of intellect. Pauli was elected as a member of the executive board of the Christian Social Union in 1989, even before becoming District Administrator. The board has 45 members and governs the political direction of the party.
At a meeting of this board, shortly before Christmas, Pauli dropped a bombshell by accusing the Minister-President's office of spying on her. This was immediately derided as attention-seeking, paranoia, and hysteria by the party establishment. A media frenzy followed.
In the end, Höhenberger was asked to leave the Minister-President's office within a few days. And Dr. Edmund Stoiber would not be long to follow.
This is but one episode in a long political drama of Pauli and the CSU, which ended in Pauli running for another party, the Freie Wähler (Free Voters) and the CSU falling 17 percentage points in the 2008 Bavarian elections (read the recent eurotrib coverage), failing to hold on to its absolute majority.
|Pauli's current official pic. Source: gabriele-pauli.de|
Gabriele Pauli had started calling for Stoiber to stand down after he played with going to Berlin too often.
Stoiber ran and lost in 2002 as the Chancellor candidate for the CDU/CSU, against the SPD's Gerhard Schröder. Following the snap federal elections in 2005, Stoiber was negotiating with current Chancellor Angela Merkel about a 'superministry', but could not get the portfolios he wanted and decided to stay in Bavaria. Where in between he and the CSU had won a historical victory in the 2003 state elections.
The designated successors of Stoiber, Günther Beckstein and Erwin Huber, were none too happy about this. However, Stoiber's position remained strong, and a brief rivalry over who of the two would get the Minister-President post made a challenge even less likely. After the Pauli scandal, though, Stoiber's position became untenable, and Beckstein and Huber came to an agreement. Beckstein would become Minister-President, Huber party leader. The fall of Stoiber was completed.
When Dr. Edmund Stoiber announced that he would step down come September 2007, events only got stranger. Nobody challenged Günther Beckstein for the post of Minister-President. But Huber's bid for the party leadership was challenged by Horst Seehofer, minister of agriculture in the federal government, and Gabriele Pauli. Seehofer's bid had some credibility, but it was scuttled by a love child scandal. Pauli had a some reasonable proposals about greater democracy and closeness to the citizens, but spent too much time in the national and international media with photo shoots and her proposal to let marriages expire after seven years. Which is all good and well, but not exactly politically smart in the context of Bavaria and the Christian Social Union.
It was not just because of her more extravagant side that the CSU leadership wanted to get the whole Pauli story behind it. It was also because she was a public reminder of the very real disharmony that existed in the party. At the CSU convention in late September 2007, though, Pauli made one last stand.
|CSU-Parteitag: Pauli stört Becksteins Krönungsmesse - Politik - SPIEGEL ONLINE - Nachrichten||CSU-Convention: Pauli disturbs Beckstein's Coronation - Politics - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News|
|Alles lief so harmonisch. "Wir müssen wieder zur legendären Geschlossenheit zurück", ruft Günther Beckstein in die Halle. Es sind die letzten Worte seiner Nominierungsrede, die CSU soll ihn als Spitzenkandidat für die Landtagswahl 2008 aufstellen. Er erntet stehenden Applaus, "Günther, Günther" rufen einige, das Klatschen wird rhythmisch und vorne in der ersten Reihe klopfen die Granden dem Günther auf die Schultern: Glück, Ramsauer, Huber, Söder - und schließlich Stoiber. Letzterer drückt sogar den Kopf des deutlich kleineren Beckstein an seine Wangen.||Everything went so harmoniously. "We have to go back to our legendary unity", Günther Beckstein calls into the hall. Those are the last words of his nomination speech, the CSU should forward him as front runner for the state elections in 2008. He gets a standing ovation, "Günther, Günther", some call out, the clapping turns rythmic and in the front row the party greats give Günther pats on his back: Glück, Ramsauer, Huber, Söder - and finally Stoiber. The latter even presses the head of the clearly shorter Beckstein to his cheeks.|
|Welch' gelungene Stabübergabe. Dann steht Gabriele Pauli auf. Die CSU-Rebellin aus Fürth hebt die orange Karte, sie will das Rederecht. Und das bekommt sie auch, auf der Tagesordnung steht ja "Aussprache".||What a successful passing on of the baton. Then Gabriele Pauli stands up. The CSU-rebel from Fürth raises the orange card, she wants the right to speak. And that she gets, the order of business reads "discussion".|
|"Lieber Günther, Du und ich, wir haben eine gemeinsame Geschichte", sagt Gabriele Pauli mit leicht zitternder Stimme. Sie steht sehr aufrecht dort am Stand-Mikro, mit durchgedrücktem Rücken, zehn Meter rechts hinter dem sitzenden Beckstein. Ungläubig dreht er sich um. Im Saal herrscht absolute Stille. "Uns verbindet etwas", fährt Pauli fort, "wenn ich das anspreche hier, wissen Sie alle, worauf ich anspiele."||"Dear Günther, you and I, we have a common history" says Pauli, her voice slightly trembling. She stands up very straight before the standing microphone, her back pressing through, ten metres to the right behind the sitting Beckstein. He turns around in disbelief. The room is completely quiet. "Something connects us", Pauli continues, "when I raise that here, everyone knows what I am implying."|
At the end of the convention, Pauli got 26 out of 1,000 votes for her bid for the party leadership, Seehofer went back to Berlin, and the CSU became the party of Beckstein and Huber.
But the elections of the next year were already looming - and the CSU was not polling too well.
Under Dr. Edmund Stoiber, the CSU followed a policy of reform and budget consolidation, and tried to make Bavaria into a high-tech state. The Bavarian people appreciated the dividends that the technology strategy paid, but started to get irritated by the impoverishment of public services. In particular, the introduction of college fees, the shortening of high school by one year and large class sizes are unpopular. Beckstein, who was always more interested in getting everyone under surveillance and/or in jail, failed to back away from this legacy of Stoiber, for which he later blamed the large loss of the CSU.
This prevailing sentiment explains part of the large win by the local(ist) Free Voters party. The Free Voters are not necessarily localist in that the sense the word is used in the ecological movement, rather, they represent local interests. Such as having a school with small classes, having local hospitals and doctors, and so on. Their themes are a mixture of liberal, communal, traditional and rural politics.
The Free Voters were traditionally a local party (or voters' association -- they don't like the p-word) in several areas in Germany, with their main strength in Bavaria and neigbouring Baden-Württemberg. There are national and state organisations, but these function as umbrella associations. In Baden-Württemberg the statutes still forbid taking part in state elections. In Bavaria, though, the party has run in the past three state elections. And in the last election, they got into the state parliament with just over ten percent of the votes, up from four.
Gabriele Pauli is going to be one of their representatives. She quit the CSU one month after the convention in September 2007. In 2008, she decided to join the Free Voters and ran directly against Günther Beckstein in his constituency. While she failed to take the direct mandate away from Beckstein, she did get into the state parliament on the back of the number of people who voted for her on the Free Voters list in the larger district of Middle Franconia (she was the number eight on that list, the technicalities have to do with the Mixed Member Proportional System).
|Gabriele Pauli on the road with typical constituents. Source: gabriele-pauli.de|
Pauli can be credited with some of that win. Aside of the votes to her in Middle Franconia, she definitely helped the party across Bavaria, as this Süddeutsche Zeitung article has her saying:
|Gabriele Pauli im Landtag - Von Platz acht nach vorne - Bayern - sueddeutsche.de||Gabriele Pauli in the state parliament - from eigth to front place - Bavaria - sueddeutsche.de|
|Schaut man in den Stimmkreis, in dem Pauli angetreten ist, so wirkt ihr Ergebnis erst mal nicht als Empfehlung für einen Karrieresprung. Lediglich 7,3 Prozent erreichte sie in Nürnberg-Nord, ihr Gegenbewerber Günther Beckstein kam auf 40 Prozent. Aber dieser Stimmkreis, sagt Pauli, sei ihr "gar nicht so wichtig" gewesen.||If one looks into the constituency in which Pauli ran, her results don't immediately form an encouragement for a higher post. She only got 7.3 percent in Nürnberg-Nord, her opponent Günther Beckstein reached 40 percent. But this constituency, Pauli says, was "not that important at all" for her.|
|Deshalb trat sie im Wahlkampf öfters in südbayerischen Bierzelten auf - um der FW über die Fünf-Prozent-Hürde zu helfen. "Als ich vor drei Monaten zu den Freien gestoßen bin, lagen sie bei Umfragen nur bei fünf Prozent", sagt Pauli. Seither habe sich die Zustimmung verdoppelt. Die 51-Jährige spricht von einem "Pauli-Faktor", der diesen Zuwachs "gewiss nicht behindert" habe.||For that reason, she more often campaigned in beer tents in Southern Bavaria - to get the FW over the five percent threshold. "When I joined the Free Voters three months ago, they were only polling five percent", Pauli says. Since then, the results would have doubled. The 51 year-old talks about a "Pauli factor" which "certainly did not hinder" this growth.|
An important point in that context is that Pauli appeared in those Beer Tents in a Dirndl
, whereas the wife of Beckstein refused to wear one to the Oktoberfest
Such things can cost or bring one a few percentage points in the free state of Bavaria.
As the Bavarian election was a disaster for the CSU, both Huber and Beckstein have given up their positions, and Horst Seehofer is going to take both, his scandal having blown over. Seehofer is nominally from the more social part of the party. But even if he can be trusted, Seehofer does not set policy alone. The CSU is going to form a government with the free-market liberal FDP (negotiations are underway but should be a formality), which will on the one hand mean a slight reversal of the surveillance and punishment politics, but on the other a continuation of the reformist line.
Pauli will take a place in the opposition, a role in which she should be able to help the largely politically inexperienced Free Voters faction. If the Bavarian government will continue its neoliberal policies (and if the SPD continues not to have its act together), they should be poised for similar gains in five years.
At the end of the day, Pauli still is a strong political voice, while Stoiber, who tried to get rid of her behind her back, and Beckstein and Huber, who conveniently used her as a scapegoat for their coup, all met their political demise. Don't cross Gabriele Pauli.